Research has shown the benefit of including graphic images of lung and mouth cancer on labels of cigarette packs which has helped reduce demand of the product.
A sample of 404 adult smokers from four states participated in an experimental auction on cigarette packs with four different kinds of warning labels. All packs carried the same message: smoking causes mouth cancer.
The first pack featured a text-only message on the side of the pack, the current US policy. The second had a text-only message that covered 50 percent of the lower half of the front, back and one side of the pack. A third had the same text message, but with a photo depicting mouth cancer. The fourth package had the same text and graphic photo, but was a mostly unbranded pack, meaning all color and symbolic brand elements were removed except for the brand's font, size and descriptors.
"We found that the label with just the front text warning had little effect on consumers," says study co-author Matthew Rousu, professor of economics at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa. "However, demand was significantly lower for packs with grotesque images, with the lowest demand associated with the plain, unbranded pack."
The bids for cigarette packs that had a grotesque photo and no brand imagery received bids that were 17 percent lower than the bids for the package with the current US warning label.
"Results from our study suggest that the new health warnings with graphic pictures will reduce demand for cigarettes," said Rousu, who conducted the study with James F. Thrasher, David Hammond, Ashley Navarro and Jay R. Corrigan.
"Regulators should also consider health warnings with graphic pictures, but also plain packaging policies for tobacco products," he added.
The study was recently published in the journal Health Policy.